In Response to Trans Sanctuary Declarations

by | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

  • Madison’s first openly gay mayor, Satya Rhodes-Conway, and first openly trans alderwoman, Dina Nina Martinez-Rutherford, raise the trans pride flag for the first time at the municipal building for Pride month

To our transgender and nonbinary community,

The Madison Area Transgender Association (MATA) Leadership Team is delighted that the Dane County Board of Supervisors and the Madison Common Council passed resolutions declaring the county and city sanctuaries for transgender and nonbinary people. We appreciate the importance of these actions, especially considering the general political environment in Wisconsin.

We are hopeful that having passed these resolutions, the City of Madison and Dane County will continue to make efforts to be a true sanctuary for our communities, such as providing more material support for transgender and nonbinary services and for overtaxed service providers in Madison and Dane County. While we know Madison/Dane County can be a sanctuary from cities, counties, and states that are at best less accepting, and at worst openly hostile, we also know that there is no assurance for financial, housing, or health care security here. Nonetheless, we support those in our community who are compelled to move to Dane County/Madison. As part of that support, it is important to provide information based on our lived experiences.

Atlas Counseling

The best part about living in Madison/Dane County is the overall general acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. We have lots of LGBTQ+ activities, entertainment, and recreation opportunities; a history of legal protections, and queer/ally elected officials invested in continuing these protections; faith organizations and services; news/media sources; and support services. Several of these are trans-specific, such as a trans hockey team. There is also a large and diverse transgender and nonbinary community that is active in organizing and advocating for our community.

As a program of OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center, MATA holds weekly social/support group meetings, hosts an annual trans joy event in the spring, and hosts an annual holiday care package drive in the winter, along with co-hosting events with the LGBTQ 50+ Alliance. There are many opportunities to find community and belonging throughout Madison and Dane County through OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center programming, as well as opportunities to create groups to host your own activities.

However, there are also many barriers to thriving as a trans and/or nonbinary person in Madison and Dane County, especially for people of color and poor folks.

The cost of living in Madison/Dane County is extremely high. There is an out-of-control housing and rental market and not enough support and social services to help fill the gaps in housing security. While some may be able to find some reasonably priced houses/rentals outside of Madison/Dane County, this increases isolation and decreases proximity to the larger LGBTQ+ community. This also puts trans and nonbinary persons in a position to have to choose between living within these designated sanctuaries and having an affordable place.

Forward Fertility

There are few options for those experiencing housing insecurity in Madison and Dane County. For trans and nonbinary people, the shelters here are not necessarily safe or accepting, even if they are not legally allowed to discriminate. Housing affordability is also impacted by a job market that favors jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

Unlike our border states, Wisconsin has not raised the state minimum wage above the national rate of $7.25/hr to account for cost of living, and still allows tipped employees to be paid astoundingly low wages.

The job market/possibilities are themselves impacted by lack of accessible public transportation, which for many, particularly those with low wages, has worsened during recent changes to the metro system. Even the bus stop servicing the Outreach LGBTQ+ Community Center was discontinued. To be a sanctuary, we need reliable, accessible transportation to the few services that exist.

There are also several barriers to finding transgender- and nonbinary-specific health care in Madison and Dane County. There are often long waitlists to see the few medical providers, including surgeons, who are most competent and affirming, with some of the most in-demand providers either not taking new clients or, sadly, permanently closing their doors.

Further barriers exist depending on what health care network(s) people have access to, with some network providers having policies against providing gender-affirming health care for transgender and nonbinary patients on the basis of religious objections. A major medical network here recently quietly discontinued gender-affirming surgeries, citing their religious beliefs as justification for discriminating against their patients. This leaves many trans and nonbinary folks in our community who were close to having gender-affirming surgeries in mental health crises as they frantically search for new providers, and likely newly elongated wait times as other medical facilities attempt to pick up the slack.

We do fortunately have robust public health services providing STI testing and vaccines and harm reduction services, including HRT needle-exchange providers. Local Planned Parenthoods also fill some health care gaps. However, it is important to point out that abortion services are still illegal in Wisconsin.

Atlas Counseling

While there are many trans/nonbinary folks involved in activism and political organizing here in Madison and Dane County, local political demonstrations often bring out anti-trans feminists, religious extremists, and other far right groups that are antagonistic toward our community. So while there is a lot of support for the LGBTQ+ community in general, we are not insulated from political harm.

The bottom line is: The best thing we in Madison and Dane County can offer to trans and nonbinary folks considering moving here is our community. There is still a lot of work to be done to make Madison and Dane County safer and more accessible places to live for everyone, including those who are most vulnerable and often cast aside by our city and county.

We hope that when any of our transgender and nonbinary family find themselves in Madison, Dane County, South Central WI, or really anywhere in Wisconsin, they are able to find community connections, support, and resources. We’re here to help support each other.

In solidarity and care,

The Madison Area Transgender Association Leadership Team

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